Deworming Drug Could Help Reduce Spread of HIV in Africa, Study Finds
Providing girls in rural Africa with a deworming drug could help reduce the spread of HIV, according to a study recently published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the New York Times reports. The drug, called praziquantel, costs about 32 cents per pediatric dose and prevents schistosomiasis, a worm disease that starts as a urinary tract infection. If untreated, schistosomiasis can lead to female genital sores that can facilitate HIV infection. Because the drug can kill the worms but cannot cure genital sores, girls should be protected before they reach sexual maturity, according to the Times.
"For this relatively small investment, the reproductive health of young women would be improved," the authors from the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Imperial College London and Oslo University wrote, adding that "there is a reasonable chance that HIV/AIDS transmission can be reduced." There are about 207 million schistosomiasis cases worldwide, 90% of which occur in Africa, where humans are exposed usually through snail-infested water. According to a pilot program conducted in Burkina Faso, all 70 million cases among young children in Africa could be treated for $22 million, and repeating universal treatment every two years for 10 years would cost $112 million (McNeil, New York Times, 5/26).
The study is available online.